Keir Starmer, the leader of the UK’s main opposition Labour Party, has been accused of undermining the country’s Muslim community after refusing to attend a public iftar or fast-breaking event following the intervention of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, a right-wing conservative organization.
In a petition launched by the Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA), a Palestinian NGO based in the UK, Starmer was accused of double standards and for supporting Israel in its illegal military occupation of Palestinian territories where many food products, including dates, are unethically sourced and for which the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was created.
“We, the undersigned, are gravely concerned that Keir Starmer, the Labour Party leader, pulled out of a public iftar [breaking of the fast]with Muslims during Ramadan. In this selective disengagement, the Labour leader is discriminating against Muslims, which feeds into the systemic Islamophobia that is rife within the Labour Party,” the petition said.
“We demand a clarification from the Labour leader as to why he is undermining Muslims and anyone else who is seeking justice and redress for the Palestinian people,” it added.
The Labour head cancelled his attendance after the Board of Deputies of British Jews highlighted a Twitter post from the event’s organizer that called for a boycott of Israeli dates that were unethically sourced from occupied Palestinian territories. The post was in reference to the BDS movement.
The FOA said the decision of Starmer to opt out of the public event was “deeply disappointing” as over 60% of Labour Party members supported the BDS movement against the illegal occupation of Palestinian land. The group added that Starmer was “happy” to engage with these members but considered it “unacceptable” when a Muslims voices his support for the movement.
“In demonizing BDS, Keir Starmer is sending a clear signal of his unconditional support for Israel and its continued occupation of Palestine and its violation of Palestinian rights,” the group said.
Omar Salha, founder of the Ramadan Tent Project and the public iftar event, in a Twitter post said: “This #Ramadan, Don’t Eat into #Palestine.”
The Ramadhan Tent Project was created in 2013 by Salha and through its Open Iftar program provides free iftar meals to members of the public during the Muslim holy month of Ramadhan. The project also provides free meals to the homeless and other sections of society that are in need of support and assistance.